Our world premiere adventure began at ten o’clock on Friday night. That’s when gaelic_bohemian and I finally got over to Disneyland. She’d been at work until 5, and we both still had packing and shopping to do. After a quick trip to Walmart to pick up snacks and print out the screencap of James Norrington and Theodore Groves I was going to try to get the actors to sign, we grabbed some Jamba Juice for the road and headed down to the park. Traffic wasn’t bad at all once we got by the stalled semi in the second lane of the I5.
We got to the park before our friends and decided to try and go on Indy before they arrived. Unfortunately, the ride broke down before we even went upstairs (the final part of the line), so we bailed. We met up with scifichicx, estelofimladris, and devidarkwolf just outside the entrance plaza once they got to the park, and we all decided that we were hungry and wanted cheap food. So, we walked over to a close AmPm, and I bought coffee, munchies, and an awesome PotC mug they had for sale. I’m always on the lookout for Pirates merchandise I’ll actually use.
At around 2 AM, we moved our cars out of the Mickey and friends parking structure, since it was closing. Though we had tried to buy our blackout day tickets a day early, we were told we couldn’t do that. We were also told that they were going to allow a line to form for tickets at around 4 AM. Since Lina and Caitie had done this last year, Lina suggested that we check periodically anyway, since what (the very hardworking, but occasionally frazzled and misinformed) Disney staff told us was often not what actually happened. It’s a good thing she checked, because when she and Elise went over to the park entrance, there was already a line. They both immediately got in it, and called us so we could send Rei over and have three people in our party in line. There was much confusion, and much was made over the fact that security was initially saying that Caitie and I weren’t going to be allowed to join them in line since we weren’t there, which was complete crap. It’s not like we were off clubbing or doing something unrelated. We were drivers trying to figure out a safe place to park our cars in Anaheim at two o’clock in the morning. (There is no such place unless you’re a hotel guest, by the way.) Finally, Lina talked to someone in charge and got them to admit that it would be fair for us to be in line with them after we were let into the parking structure. That made us both a lot more calm, Caitie especially. I was feeling the lack of sleep around that time, and though I was a little worried, I was nowhere near as up in arms about it as she was. I think that we balanced each other out. She kept me from complete apathy, and I kept her from going over and bludgeoning people with her huge umbrella she’d brought in case of rain.
Having been told that the Timon and Pumba parking lot was going to be opening at around 5:30, and that it would be the first parking lot to open, we drove over, parked our cars in adjacent lanes, and sat down to wait. We had books, movies, cards, and music, so we were prepared. A couple of other people drifted in, a security person wandered by to see what we were doing and confirmed that we were in the right place, and we thought we were set. However, after about half an hour of sitting, a different security person came by and told us that they wanted the line for parking to form back over at Mickey and friends. We were understandably annoyed, and Caitie led a caravan of us back over to the structure. We lost our first spots in line during the drive over, but we were still pretty near the front, so I didn’t care. We passed a pleasant couple of hours talking to the people in the cars around us who had come from all over the country. There were people from Idaho, a guy from Las Vegas… and we all shared stories and talked about past pirates things we’d been at. It was pretty cool. After opening her car doors and pumping the Kraken theme through the vast, echoing cavern of the parking garage (which was awesome, by the way…) Caitie whipped out her laptop and the battery starter that one can use as an emergency power source and we stuck in Dead Man’s Chest. We even had one of the little boys from a nearby car watching the show with us. When the lights in the garage came on, all of us got in our cars and got ready to be let in. They finally started letting us park at around 5. I was a little annoyed because even though my pass has parking, they made me pay for it anyway since it was a blackout day, something they don’t usually do. I once came to the park and didn’t even know it was a blackout day until I got to the actual gates to the park. Oh well.
We got on the first tram out to the main entrance plaza, and found a long line already wrapping around from the security checkpoints. Calls to the rest of our party told us that they already had their tickets and were just waiting for them to open the park. They finally let us start filing past security. I had to open my poor, dying backpack, which was stuffed to the gills with reading material, water, and my Navy coat. So of course, the zipper promptly decided to give out as soon as we were past security. No big deal, really… just annoying as all heck. We didn’t have many people in front of us in the lines to buy tickets, but a couple of girls in front of us took an eternity. We got our blackout day tickets and headed over to meet Rei, Lina, and Elise. Luckily, the people standing around them were very kind, and they understood our car situation and were ok with the drivers for our group joining the line late.
When they finally opened the gates, we got cool maps and neat pins with good shots of Barbosa, Elizabeth, Jack, and Will on them. There was a mad rush to the archway under the railroad tracks, where we were stopped again and told to be polite to each other and not to run. A lot of good that did. As soon as they let us by, people were running and pushing and ducking under the rope, which many people (including me) assumed was just there to block off waiting space as opposed to walking space. Because the setup was different then last year, we couldn’t have our same spot, which confused matters some. In less than thirty seconds, most of the good spots near the entrance were gone, and Main Street was filling up fast. The nice people who had been by us in line offered to let us sit behind them and assured us that those of us who really wanted certain autographs and pictures would be able to get them. We were ok with this, until we realized that Caitie and Elise were gone. Then, we got a call informing us that we needed to get ourselves down Main Street because Caitie had managed to secure a place right up against the line farther down. So, I said goodbye to the people we’d been standing with and ran after Rei and Lina.
Our spot ended up being almost down to the end of Main Street, right by the Plaza Restaurant and the entrance to Tomorrow Land. Caite and Elise were taking up as much space as humanly possible, and the rest of us quickly filled in. And then, we waited. Though we had a lot of room when we initially staked out our space, it began to shrink early on, which was really not cool. It was almost impossible for all five of us to even sit comfortably in what we were left with. So, around ten, we decided to lose some of the stuff, and for most of the day we sat in shifts, because it was just easier that way.
Early on in the day, when I got up to stretch my legs, I ran into geekmama and erinya. It was completely random, and I only knew that I needed to run over and say hello to these people because I’d met geekmama last year, so I knew what she looked like. We chatted for a while, which was lovely. I love getting to meet people I interact with online! I’m only sorry I didn’t get to spend more time with them. Logistics and the fact that we were trying to hold on to our space prevented that. :-(
Another time that I got up, I went to look at the setup for the movie showing that night. The stage just below the screen looked awesome. It was set up to look like a shipwreck, and there were planks and netting and canons strewn about everywhere, and on one side of the stage there was a figurehead that looked an awful lot like the Pearl’s, except for the fact that she was missing the outstretched arm with the sparrow. It was creepy but very cool.
There were all kinds of little dramas and annoyances, like when they made everyone stand up at TEN IN THE MORNING and acted like we weren’t supposed to sit back down. Ever. Which was, again, complete crap. I understand wanting to keep people moving, but the place where we were sitting wasn’t even in a walkway. They had it completely blocked off as an area for people waiting for the premiere. So, unless they just wanted to make some of us so miserable we would leave, I can’t really see what the purpose of that was. Then, there was the fact that, unlike last year, there were velvet divider ropes about two feet away from the barricades we were behind. This was obviously intended to make it harder for fans to reach out and paw the actors. I get that. People can be downright annoying and rude, and I completely understand if the rumor that Johnny Depp requested the ropes himself after some things that happened last year is true. I wouldn’t want to be grabbed and pawed at either. However, we worried that the ropes would also have the effect of discouraging the actors from signing stuff by making it harder for them. One of the staff members even intimated that they were trying to keep the stars from doing too many autographs. At that point, I almost cried. I was already sleep-deprived, I had a terrible knot in one of my leg muscles that hurt whether I walked, stood, or sat, and I had this sudden fear that I was going to sit through the whole day and barely get a glimpse of the two people I most wanted to interact with. However, Lina was still optimistic, and once I got through the worst of my panic, her good attitude rubbed off on me enough to make me feel better.
After the heat of the day hit around eleven, my memory gets kind of blurry. Mostly, I drank a lot of water and Gatorade to keep myself hydrated, started the second book of the Temeraire series, and tried to keep myself up and happy. Despite all of the discomfort, I was. Happy, that is. I was at the world premiere of At World’s End. And, if I had to be squished into a very small space for a long period of time with a bunch of people, there aren’t many others I would have rather been squished with. Lina’s optimism is infectious, Elise’s sense of humor is amazing and made me smile even when I felt a little cruddy, Caitie’s determination and dedication (she was sewing in line again) made me buck up and deal, and Rei was, as always, my other half who (literally) let me lean on her when it hurt to walk, made me drink more fluids when I started getting a bit dotty, and helped me write signs when I didn’t have room to move. I love them all SO MUCH. We were eventually joined by hystericblue42 and lady_entropy17. I’m so glad that we managed to squish them in, because it was only the third time Amy had ever been to Disneyland, and I know that Jessica loves Jack Davenport as much as I do.
At around three, camera crews started coming down the line and taping people screaming, and at the section we were in, we got taped high-fiving some of the actors from the Disney Channel’s review show Movie Surfers. We also waved at the camera for a Japanese TV crew who were filming across the way.
People started coming down the line at around four o’clock. At first, it was mostly ‘normal’ people who had bought very expensive tickets to see the movie. The money went to a good cause, though (the Make a Wish Foundation), and if I was independently wealthy, I would have made a serious effort to get my hands on some of those tickets.
One of the fun things about red carpet events is people watching. There were people dressed up in pirate-y clothing (there was little boy in an amazing Jack coat who was quite adorable), interesting looking people who were obviously quite eccentric, and mind-blowing gorgeous people of both sexes who weren’t necessarily even famous. People around me were taking pictures of good looking people just for the fun of it.
They were letting a lot of people down the carpet at a time, (Keith Richards snuck through with very little fanfare!) and though I had gone online and found pictures of Greg Ellis (Groves) in modern clothes, I am notoriously bad at recognizing people out of costume. I was worried that he would walk right by me and I wouldn’t know it. I had Rei, who was standing on the curb above me, keeping an eye out for me, and I knew that everyone else was working for me too. Just to be safe, I decided that I needed to have some sort of sign to get the attention of the people I was hoping to see. So, I took the file folder that I was using to protect my print and wrote, “I *heart* Commodore Norrington! (Thank you, Mr. Davenport!)” on one side. I wrote in blue, of course, and I made the heart into a really bootleg Union Jack with the help of Caitie’s pinkish-red Sharpie. Lina drew me the Interceptor in the empty space. On the other side, Rei wrote, “Theodore Groves… best lieutenant I’ve ever seen! (Thank you, Mr. Ellis!)”
Rei saw Greg Ellis first. She saw him when he was quite far away and wasn’t sure it was him, so she didn’t say anything, but she was right. We were stationed across from the tables they had set up for radio stations who were broadcasting from the park, and when I first saw him, he was standing at one of the tables caddy-corner from us doing an interview. Rei waved our sign around for us, and I waved my picture around. The woman working as his handler saw us, and I watched her point us out to Mr. Ellis. Knowing we at least had his attention, I waited. He came over to our side of the carpet, made eye contact with me, and smiled. As is usual when one person wants an autograph, people around us who didn’t necessarily know who he was wanted one too, and he went down the line, but not before giving me a little, “I’ll be right there, ok?” gesture. I think I grinned so big it made my face hurt.
I was so excited and nervous that I could feel my muscles in my legs shaking. First of all, I was worried that I was going to scare him with my excessive fangirliness. Second, Greg Ellis is extremely good looking. I mean, I’ve always thought that he was handsome and loved his character to death, but I don’t think I was really prepared for just how cute he was going to be in person. He was wearing a very snazzy blue shirt and a black vest, and some awesome pirate-y looking rings. Anyway, he came over to us, and Rei said something about how great it was to meet him, and she informed him that I was a huge fan. Why didn’t I speak for myself? Most likely because I couldn’t, so it’s a good thing someone did. I had something to say all rehearsed. Did I say it? No. But what actually happened was way better. He asked me where on earth I’d gotten my picture, and I told him I’d printed it out from a screencap. I think the reaction was more impressed than weirded out by my obsessiveness, which was a relief. Rei told him that he and Jack Davenport were a big part of the reason I was here today, and he got this surprised, happy look on his face, and said, “Really? Here, have a hug.” And he hugged me without me even asking for it. I could scarcely believe that it was happening, and I might doubt my own memory of it except for the fact that I have pictures on the cameras of every person who was there with me. In fact, Amy (hystericblue42) already has one up on her journal. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, Lina did something that I never would have been gutsy enough to do in a million years, but I am SO GLAD she did it. She says to him, “So, would you consider giving one of your biggest fans a kiss?” He looks at her kind of funny, like he thought she meant her, and she shakes her head and says, “No no… Her,” and points to me. He smiled that adorable, boyish smile again, and he kissed me on the cheek. There is not enough capslock or italics in the world to express how much I was freaking out, so I’ll let that sentence stand alone. I handed him the picture, and he said, “Wow, this sure takes me back a few years.” He asked me what my name was, and I told him. He signed my picture, “To Emily, a huge fan – Greg Ellis.” Then, he asked me, “So, when are you going to see the movie?” and I said, “On Thursday, as soon as I can.” I thanked him profusely, and I think he even waved goodbye to me. I kind of went a little weak in the knees after he left, as soon as it hit the rational part of my brain that all of it had actually just occurred. Honestly, it was probably one of the most awesome interactions between a celebrity and a fan that I have ever been a witness to, and it happened to me. It probably helped that I was probably one of the people most exited to see him specifically in the whole park, and I’ll almost bet money that I’m the only one that had gone through the trouble of finding and printing a picture. He really did seem genuinely happy to talk to me, and that just about made my millennium.
Adding to the fun is that as Greg Ellis was coming toward us from one side, Masi Oka (Hiro from Heroes) was coming toward us from the other side. (Lina was like, “I feel like I’m at the center of an atom!”) I was preoccupied and didn’t get his autograph, but Caitie did. He was very sweet to us as well, and when someone in our group asked, he told them he was going to be at Comic-Con, probably. He signed Caitie’s autograph with his name and, “It’s time to save the world.” I didn’t have time to geek out properly over that at the time, but I’m so happy for Caitie that she got to talk to him, since she’s was the one really hoping that Heroes actors would show up.
Other famous people came by, some I recognized and some I didn’t, and then, out of nowhere, there was Jack Davenport. I still had adrenaline coursing through me from the last signature I’d gotten, so I was pretty keyed up. It had cooled down by this time, and I was wearing my Norrington coat. Mr. Davenport seemed a little dazed by all of the screaming fans, but who wouldn’t be? I’m not sure about this, but I’ll bet that so many more people recognized him this time around than last that it isn’t even funny. (And has anyone been to premieres in England? Because I’ll also bet that we American fans, as a group, are a lot more… insane. Getting past the screaming lot of us has got to be tiring for the actors.) Anyway, he was going down the line, signing autographs, and he signed my picture for me, and someone (Lina again? Maybe Caitie… I’ll have to check the video Rei got…) said, “Hey look, she’s even wearing your coat!” That got his attention, and he looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, “You are, aren’t you?” in an amused voice. If it was possible for people to melt, I would have. He was also very handsome in person, with his grey suit, rumpled hair, and lovely green eyes. But what really makes me find him so attractive is his amazingly expressive face. So, having him smile directly at me is pretty much on my list of best things ever. He also signed an autograph for Jessica, who was standing behind me, which made me very happy for her. She and I practically met because of our mutual Norrington admiration.
After Mr. Davenport went by, things really got crazy. It was getting late, and a lot of people started to come by. I didn’t get autographs from any of them, but it was enough to see them and know that people around me were getting awesome pictures they would share. We saw Tom Hollander (Beckett), who we could not get to come over to us no matter how much we tried. We also saw Chow Yun Fat, which was kind of a surprise because I didn’t remember much of the guest list that I’d read that didn’t translate in my mind into, “OMG I get to meet the people who played James and Theo!!!elventyone!” Chow Yun Fat looked very cool and gracious, and was waving at people even as the staff was trying to usher him down the carpet. We saw Bill Nighy again. He didn’t come over to us, but he did go over to a girl in a wheelchair sitting across from us. She had a sign that was for him specifically, and since I had a very recent memory of how amazing it was to get the attention of a favorite star, I thought it was cool of him to go talk to her. We saw Jonathan Pryce, who is a very classy fellow, and Geoffrey Rush, who was followed very closely by Jack the Monkey and his trainer! I snapped one of my better pictures of the night when the monkey sat on Mr. Rush’s shoulder. Naomi Harris was there, looking lovely as usual, but alas, she did not stop for us either. Understandable, since we were near the end of the carpet and they really wanted to start on time because a lot of people paid a lot of money to be there. Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski were there, and they got a lot of attention, of course.
Orlando Bloom was one of the last people to go by, and the Disney people were really trying to get him to move along. All of us got together and yelled, “ORLANDO!” at the top of our lungs, and he turned around, saw Caitie’s coat, and made a series of very excitable hand gestures in her direction that roughly translates to the following: “You! With the coat! I remember you from last year! It’s awesome that you came again! Thank you for being here!” Elise has a great picture of the moment that he recognized her. His face is absolutely priceless.
Johnny came through last, and we could hear the screams coming up all the way from the front of the park. Our goal with Johnny was to somehow get a picture that had both him and Lina in it, and we were all ready to do whatever we had to in order to get it. So, when he came by, I got out of the way so that Elise of the amazing camera could get a better shot, and so that Amy could get a picture. I barely even saw Johnny, which kind of annoyed me. Here’s what happened. Before he came down the carpet, security came by and informed us that he would not be signing autographs at all, but that he would stop for pictures, so have our cameras ready. However, when Johnny actually got close to us, people behind us were poking us in the head with the posters they wanted him to sign, and even when we turned around and said, “He’s not signing!” They replied, “Yeah he is!” and continued to get their huge posters in the way of our shots and my line of sight. I was irritated. But, apparently Lina got some good pictures, and Johnny recognized her Jack coat and indicated he thought it was cool. So awesome for her.
We joined the rush of people trying to get to the entrance, and as we left the park, we had an impromptu episode of “Crime Fighting Pirates.” On the way past guest relations, we ran into one of Lina’s friends, who looked like a very angry Viking. He had observed a guy running down the line, pushing his way to the front every thirty feet or so and getting Johnny to sign pictures from a big bag of them that he had. He was obviously quite sneaky about it, because Johnny would never have signed even twice if he’d noticed it was the same guy. This rat bastard supposedly had a couple other people working for him too. This guy had apparently been very rude to everyone, and Lina’s friend wanted to inform security about him. He was standing there watching the crowd flow past in the hopes that he would see the rude guy as he walked past. We wished him luck and walked on. Then, as we approached the archway that goes under the railroad tracks, we saw the guy that Lina’s friend had described to us. He was holding out a large, signed picture of Orlando, and without missing a beat, Lina walked up to him and started talking to him. He was obviously intending to sell these pictures, (in THE PARK for crying out loud!) and he quoted a pretty ridiculous price to her. She played along and said, “Oh, let me call my friend and let him know about his! He’ll want to get one!” She pulls out her phone and calls her friend who was standing back in front of security and tells him exactly where the guy is standing. It was brilliant. We walked on and ran into some other friends, and as we stood chatting, we saw the rude guy, cursing very creatively and being escorted by several armed security guards. The whole thing could not have gone down more perfectly if we had planned it.
I was desperate for real food, and so we stopped by Amy D’s house and picked her up, took her to a nearby restaurant, and shared stories of the day. The food was good, (amazing biscuits and gravy) and it was nice to sit in an actual seat for a while. Having been fortified by food and a cup of coffee, we left for home. I was ridiculously tired, but I didn’t want to get a hotel in Anaheim. I have driven under worse circumstances before, but driving on thirty-nine hours of no sleep is right up there. Still, I got us home safely and we collapsed for a good ten hours.
I still smile to myself when I think about yesterday. Despite all of the waiting, the heat, and the cranky people, I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful time and get exactly what I had come for and more.
First of all, I am grateful to my friends who were with me. When I think about it, I am amazed at how well we all work as a group. We take care of each other, we put the needs of people with special attachments to certain actors first. When I wanted my Navy actors to notice me, everyone there worked for it. When Caitie wanted Orlando’s attention, we all shouted together to get it for her. When Lina wanted a good picture with Johnny, we all put her ahead of our own chances to get a good shot. And we were all happy and excited for each others’ sake. I can’t think of a more telling example of fandom bringing out the best in people.
Second, I am so grateful to all of the actors who showed up. They were all really sweet and really classy, even the ones who couldn’t stop. It makes me sad sometimes that fans who are irrationally pushing and shoving and acting rude make it necessary for the actors to have that mental ‘block’ up when they’re doing events like this. I wanted to somehow tell the actors, “We’re not all like that! Some of us just want to look you in the eye and thank you for all of the fantastic work that you do. Honestly, I can’t even put into words what the characters from the Pirates universe mean to me. Thank you.” Respect and calm, sane interest (not lack of excitement, just keeping it below a high-pitched screech) go a long way, and all of the people that I have ever seen, both last year and this, have responded to us very well when we’ve acted like that.
Lina once said that for us, to meet these people who have given us the characters that we write and rp and love is practically a spiritual experience. And she’s right. I’m happy about my picture that I got signed, but I would have been happy just to meet them and have that small bit of personal interaction where I got to express my admiration and respect. So, I’m probably going to be energetic and on an emotional high for quite a while over the fact that I actually got to talk to the men who play two of my favorite fictional characters in existence.
Pictures to follow, as soon as I get them from people. On Thursday, we will have the consummation of a year of waiting and speculation. We get to see At World’s End, and all will come full circle.